Interview with Ron Jarzombek
by Ralph Geiger and Rock Reunion

1. Watchtower recently came back from the German "Bang Your Head" festival. Please give us some impressions from your trip to Germany.

Well, the flights getting there and coming back really sucked. I don't know how many total hours it took to get to Germany but it was pure torture. I brought several books in my carry-on bag so I could work on Ink lyrics, but I was so crammed in my seat that I couldn't even get out my freaking thesaurus. Once we got to Germany it was cool. The Bang Your Head people were something else. They arranged for drivers to pick us up at the airport, take us to where ever we wanted to go in the city during our stay, and it was run like clockwork. The only way they could have been more organized was if they would have had a seating chart for us in the van. The festival itself was very organized too, down to the coordinators, sound crew, techs, meal tickets, interviews, everything. But I was pretty shocked that the whole thing really happened. Rick, Doug and I hadn't played together in something like 6 years, and I had no idea that they would be into doing something like this. Jason has been steadily gigging with various Austin bands, so I knew he'd be up for it. And hell, I had no idea AT ALL that I would want to do this Tower gigging thing again. I hadn't play out live since the "Control And Resistance" tour.

2. You played a fantastic show. But I think your complicated material was asking too much of some metal fans. How did they react?

I know a lot of the true die hard "heavy metal" people didn't get it, but that's OK. There were some Tower fans there that had been waiting 10 years to see us play live, and they made it all worth it. On the first day of the festival, we did some TV interview that was great. I think it was on the net too. Talk about some Tower fans who were very happy to see us. What freaked me out was that a lot of the people there were pretty young, maybe 19 or 20. When we were happening over there in '90, they were going to grammar school with Scooby Doo lunch boxes. After we played the festival, we went out in the crowd to watch the other bands, and I had quite a few people come up and tell me and how much they dug the show. Took a lot of photos, signed a few things, and met a lot of very, very cool people. But of those at the show that didn't understand Tower, nobody threw tomatoes at us, or gave us the finger. Seems like whenever we play now, there are people who love us, and then those that hate us. What we really like are the uptight people who take everything way too serious, and get pissed off at us. But in Europe, I think people are open minded and if something isn't exactly as they'd like it to be, it doesn't bother them too much.

3. Your stage action and the performance was one of the craziest I have ever seen (I described it in my live review). Is there a concept behind the stage show? The metal man (Jason), the sportsman (you) and the... hmmm... frogman (Doug).

I think a lot of the costume attitude came from Doug. He was in a band a few years ago called Retarted Elf, and they made it a point to go all out live and wear goofy costumes. Back in '90 when we played live, we all had the long hair, tight black pants, and a nice dress shirt. Jason is so hell bent on metal these days, so he's going to wearing the bullet belt, spikes, and what not. Doug will get whatever is dirty and looks like he got it at a thrift store and throw it on. He wanted to be a giant banana at the DT gigs, but I guess he couldn't find the costume. I could still go for the nice shirt and black pants, but we already did that. Why not do something entertaining and have fun instead of acting like we're under a microscope? None of us really have any concept about what we wear, it's just a show. At the Dream Theater gigs, I was going to be Count Bunny. That's a black/red Dracula cape, with pink rabbit ears. But I was getting dressed backstage, and I threw the cape on, and I couldn't move around worth a crap. I put the bunny ears on during "Fall Of Reason" in Houston, but I could barely move my head, so I threw them off after about 30 seconds.

4. Doug's stage outfit (green baby suit and cap) could be used as merchandising gag. What do you think about selling Watchtower caps?

Yeah, sure. We could sell those green hats, knee pads, bunny ears, underwear, whatever the Tower fans want. I think we still have some of the Energetic Reassembly 2000 T-Shirts though. You can find them at the official Tower site, which will be at www.watchtower.hm in a few weeks, but for now it's www.baremaster.com/watchtower.html.

5. You also watched the performances of the other bands. Which ones were your favourites? Were there any surprises for you?

Well, I really liked those "adult film star" chicks that came out and did their little dance. I grew up listening to the Scorpions and Accept (Udo) so that was really cool for me. Doro put on a good show. But most of the time that I was out there in the crowd, I was talking to people, so I couldn't really focus.

6. Before the show in Germany, you played two warm-up gigs in the USA. Tell us more about them.

The San Antonio show was the first show that I had done live in about 10 years. It was just plain rowdy, and for me it was extremely chaotic. All I've been doing music-wise since the "Control" tour is writing and recording Ink tunes at home on my ADAT. I was pretty damn shaky before we went on-stage. I forgot how loud to turn up on-stage, what cabinets I had plugged in, where to set my water, picks, etc. Setting up right before we went on was a blur. But once we started playing, it was damn cool. Lots of my buddies were out there. My brother Bobby was in town so he got to check it out, Chuck Schuldiner flew in from Florida, some heavy metal chick from Boston flew down, my friend Matt Johnsen at Metal Maniacs flew in from New York. Lots of people drove from Dallas and Houston to see the show. Also, we had the fire marshall come out, 8 times. It was a small club and I knew that was going to happen. The other Tower guys thought maybe 75 people were going to show up. Give me a freaking break! The next day we played in Austin. Unbelievable turn out, but this time it was organized and I was pretty calm. A bigger place and the stage was a lot bigger so we could run around and act stupid. A lot of the people that saw us in San Antonio also came to the Austin show.

7. You recently played two support shows for Dream Theater. That must have been a great experience. Did you meet the guys?

I talked to all of the guys in the band (except James) for just a few minutes. Really cool guys. Mike talked to all of us for quite a while. It's obvious that he's running Dream Theater. I talked to Petrucci a bit about one of his videos and how difficult it is for him to balance the band and his family while touring. Jordan was running over a few licks while Tower was sound checking and I asked him where was his sheet music. I still think it's amazing how he learned all the material in such a short amount of time. I totally dig what he contributes to the band, especially his writing on the latest CD. Right when we walked in the backstage door in Houston, the DT guys were onstage soundchecking. It kinda pissed me off a bit because here are these guys who had their first album out right when Tower's "Control And Resistance" came out, and they've now got a full crew working for them on the road. Full stage show, lights, gigantic TV screens, massive sound system, etc... And we just had a 3 hour drive from Austin Texas, the four of us (plus a friend and our equipment) packed in rental van. It must be great being a full time musician supporting yourself recording and playing live. (Or hell, who knows, maybe it really sucks...) But the DT guys deserve it. They've busted their asses to get where they are now, and I couldn't be more happy for them. Their show was nuts, about 2 1/ 2 hours long. They played "Memory" in it's entirety. Did all of their killer tunes.

8. Dream Theater are known for their fantastic support acts (for example Spock's Beard). How did the fans react?

Some of the DT fans loved us, some of them hated us. That's just how it is now. Some people just don't get it, they take everything way too seriously. We want to put on a show and some people aren't into that. They want us to just stand in church clothes and play our instruments.

9. The Dream Theater members have almost as many side projects running as the Spastic Ink guys. You think there is a chance to see some of you working together?

I don't know about that. The only connection there is Gordian Knot. I did a few solos of Sean Malone's first Knot CD, and John Myung did some stick work on that same CD. It would be cool if that could happen one day, but it seems as if everybody is so busy doing too many different things. I've got my hands full right now just with Spastic Ink and WatchTower. What really gets in my way is teaching right in the middle of the day. If I didn't have to rely on teaching for income maybe I could get involved in other musical projects. Same thing with Doug and Rick. If we didn't have to have normal jobs, we could get our names out there more, but that's not the case. Jason is currently in something like 5 bands, if you can believe that. All of the Dream Theater guys support themselves being in Dream Theater. They don't have other "normal" jobs. They can do really cool projects on the side like LTE. They probably do tons and tons of clinics, make videos, write articles for music magazines, record and play live.

10. Let's talk about the past: In 1985 we saw the release of the first Watchtower release "Energetic Disassembly". That disc was so ahead of it's time in terms of metal but I suspect that the material was conceived much sooner. You know more about the times when they began writing the Energetic material?

I wouldn't doubt if they wrote some of those songs straight out of high school. What year that was, I don't know, maybe early '80s. Doug just asked me to make a CD-R out of some of their very earliest songs, even before the Energetic songs. He found an old cassette in his attic or something. It was just recorded on a jam box. Probably over 15 years old. I think "Meltdown" and "Tyrants" were the first songs written that appear on "Energetic Disassembly".

11. Before joining Watchtower, you played in SA Slayer. Did you have to add the SA because the other Slayer wanted to sue you?

Yep, that's about what happened. (S.A.) Slayer had just released "Prepare To Die", when I joined the band. A few months earlier the "real" Slayer released their debut LP. I remember being in the studio, and Bob Catlin and Bob O'Neil were talking about Slayer's lawyers were calling him and threatening to sue if there wasn't a name change made. We thought about changing the name to Die Bleeding, Scythian Prey, and I forgot the others. When the "Go For The Throat" album was finally released, we didn't know what the band was going to be called. As a matter of fact, the album has Scythian Prey listed as the producer. I guess the credits were done around the time that we decided on that name. Bob, Steve and I hated that name. Thank God they just added the S.A to Slayer. And I guess it was OK because we never heard from Slayer's lawyers.

12. In these times you were already good times with the boys from Watchtower. Can you tell us more about the times when you first met?

I remember seeing WatchTower play live for the first time, and I was TOTALLY floored. It was at some cheesy ice house. They had tiny amps up there, but tore the place up. I was always talking with Jason and Billy, but Rick and Doug were very distant. At gigs, they would just do their own thing and wouldn't really hang out with anyone else. Now it's a different story, especially Doug. He's become Mr. Sociable. You can't get him away from anyone who wants to talk at a gig. Jason was always pushing the band and so he was out there talking to everybody. And Billy and I just clicked because we're guitar players. He's also the coolest guy you'd ever meet. When Jason first asked me to join the band after Billy left, I was a bit hesitant for several reasons, but I didn't know if Doug and Rick were into having me as part of the band because they never really had much to say. Doug finally got around to calling me up and I auditioned the next Sunday. Ever since then it's been pretty damn peachy.

13. Tell us how SA Slayer helped you continue to grow as a musician. If it held you back - tell us about that too.

Being in (S.A.) was a bit strange for me because I wasn't a metal guy at all back then. When I first joined the band, I had to go out and buy some black spandex pants, and my mommy made me this fake "leather" vest. It was made out of an old vinyl couch. I went to Tandy leather company and got some of those metal studs and lined up 'em really nice and pretty with a ruler. I think as a result of being in Slayer, I turned into a bit of a metal head, but my major influences have always been "progressive". Musically, I think what Slayer was doing was OK, but I remember having a very hard time trying to get them to play anything progressive. The quintuplets on the verses of "Ancient Swords" (from the "Go For The Throat" LP) were a major step for the band. Bobby and I were doing timing figures like that in grade school.

14. SA Slayer drummer Dave McClain later joined Machine Head, bass player Don Van Stavern was part of the Riot reunion ("Thundersteel" album). You know what he's doing now? You are still in contact with the ex-members?

I heard that Dave just quit Machine Head. I think they're doing a lot of that rap metal crap now, not sure though. He'll probably get into another metal band. He's doing pretty good for himself. Don formed a local band called "Pit Bull Daycare" and I believe they had a CD released called Six, Six, Sex or something. Not sure what he's up to now. Bob Catlin works at a music store here in San Antonio and has gotten into some strange music. His band is called "Pseudo Buddah", and his main instrument now is a sitar. I haven't talked to Steve (Cooper) in ages, but I doubt he's singing anymore

15. When you joined the band in 1987, you had to play the guitar parts of Billy White. How did you learn the songs? Only by listening to the tape?

I already had a copy of "Energetic Disassembly", and then I used a jambox recording of Instruments, Eldritch, Fall, and Control. That's what I learned most of the songs off of. When I first went to Austin to rehearse with Tower, Doug and I would sit down and he'd write out maybe two songs a week of what his parts were so I could have something to go on. Jason also got me several live video tapes and I could see where on the neck Billy was playing the parts. I used to stay in Austin for two days when I drove up for Tower rehearsal, and sometimes I'd stay over at Billy's and we'd jam for a little bit. He'd show me some of the parts he played (if he remembered) and once in a while I'd change or add something, but usually I played the part as it was written.

16. How did you feel performing the songs another player wrote?

I like playing the "Energetic" songs rather than the "Control" songs live because they're a lot easier and I can run around on-stage and goof off more. On the Control songs, we have to watch what we're doing. If the monitors are really bad, we could get lost. The songs on Energetic are almost all 4/4 with simple power chords. I don't mind at all playing the songs that Billy wrote. I also copy the storylines of some of his solos. As a matter of fact, all of the songs that we played at the last Tower shows are all Billy/Doug songs. We really wanted to play "Mayday in Kiev" but Jason had never sang it, and I didn't want him to be concerned with learning and remembering lyrics that he was unfamiliar with. On the "Control And Resistance" tour, we played everything off of the album except "Lifecycles" because that's more of a studio song. I remember on the "Control" tour always being glued to my pedalboard switching presets for different harmonies with my foot while playing solos. On "Mayday" I used to hit the footswitch 15 times during the solo. Then on the "Energetic" songs I could be falling on the floor, on the drum platform or wherever I wanted to be.

17. How was the mood in the band when Jason left shortly after you joined them? Did you think about giving up?

I was pretty damn pissed. Jason was the reason I got in the band in the first place. I don't think we ever thought of giving up, because we had almost enough material for another record and I wasn't about to let everything go to waste. Getting a bunch of audition tapes from various cheesy vocalists does make you want to hang it up, but it just takes one guy to fill the spot, and we had to find him. We had some guys audition and it was always such a big waste of time.

18. With interim singer Mike Soliz, Watchtower recorded the song "Dangerous Toy". Did it have something to do with Jason's new band?

Yeah, there are two verses in the song that have to do with Jason and Toys. The majority of the song is strictly about a polygraph machine, but some of it could be applied to both situations. I thought Mike did a pretty good job when he was in the band, but the problem was that he just didn't contribute much. He just basically filled a role and didn't add anything. We did a lot of local gigging with Mike, and for me it was better, because I wasn't the new guy. Mike's doing OK these days. I think he's doing some studio work in Austin or something.

19. Why did he leave the band and how did you feel looking for another singer?

Well, I didn't care for Billy or Jason leaving the band either. So I guess if one guy has to be replaced, you replace him. It just kinda sucked for me because WatchTower wasn't really WatchTower anymore. Jason was always the frontman and the focal point. The musicians in the band were killer players, but it's a different story when the frontman changes. Jason took off because he had the opportunity to do everything for real. At that time, we were just a local band and not really pushing for much more. Jason played in some serious big time arenas with Toys, had real management, booking etc...

20. On the second Watchtower album "Control And Resistance", there were some songs written by Billy White and some new ones with your songwriting input. Where do you see the differences?

Actually, to me there seems to be a lot more difference between the "Energetic" songs and the "Control" songs, versus the Billy/Doug songs and the Ron/Doug songs on "Control". The songs on "Control" are far more difficult to play and have some really cool timing things happening. A lot of people think that the "Energetic" songs are very complicated and chaotic, but most of the songs are straight 4/4. Some sudden tempo changes, and all of the radical drumming make it sound off the wall. Except for the triplet sixteenth intro in "Hidden Instincts", that song is about as simple as those songs on Energetic, but that's about it. That was the first song that we put together when I joined the band. Just about all of the songs on Energetic are simple 4/4 grooves, but how the songs are played is what makes them. For instance, "Tyrants In Distress" is all 4/4 but goes from a triplet feel to a sixteenth feel a few times, and changes tempos. It's just a great song with catchy individual parts, and a cool arrangement. The songs on "Control" have all sorts of different time signatures and intricate parts being played. The bass solo section in "Toy" is a damn mess. Doug wrote a free time bass solo, and then I wrote the rhythmic background for it and ended up with all these wild chords and chopped up measures of 7, 5. "Mayday" has got some quintuplet sixteenth runs, hidden Morse code messages, etc... "Fall" has time signatures of 7 and 9 being played simultaneously, "Control" has measures of 13, 9, 9/16 fills, etc... Some scary stuff happening on that CD.

21. The album was recorded in Berlin and released on German Noise Records. Was it your first time in Germany? What are your memories?

Yeah, that was the first time I was ever out of Texas. My first time being on an airplane too. I remember arriving in the Germany airport and I couldn't read anything. I was freaking out. I was also a bit freaked because the damn airline lost my big suitcase with my underwear, 4 track, work cassette tapes with vocal lines and solos, and a bunch of other goodies. The suitcase arrived the next day thankfully, but I was pretty pissed for a while. About memories... I remember trying to talk to some Germans like Tarzan with short words and sign language for a few seconds and then they start talking to me in perfect English. Made me feel like the dumb, naive American that I am. Our first dinner with Noise was at this Italian restaurant called the Temperado (we called it the Desperado though). I had lasagna there nearly every other day. Good stuff. I could have gone for a good chicken fried steak though. Carl (Noise) was slurping and spitting in his soup like he had been starving for a week or two and finally got to eat something. Man, those were good times. I remember having our first producer Alan Leming fired, (now that was fun!) and recording with Tom Stokinger at the mixing board. What a hilarious dude. Gerdy (assistant engineer) was so cool too. We had our first two gigs with Alan Tecchio in Germany. The first one was OK, but the second was killer. We've played with wireless systems for so long, and at this gig we had to use cords, and at the end of the show, there was a HUGE 3 foot pile of waded up cords in the middle of the stage. That gig kicked serious ass. We saw the Berlin wall a few months before it was torn down. I could go on and on...

22. In 1990, there were two reasons for the split of Watchtower: the problems with Alan and your fingers. Alan said he didn't like the high screams and wanted to expand his voice by using my mid and lower registers. Was there no possibility to make some concessions in the songwriting?

I've read several interviews that Alan has done over the past years, and I always read about him complaining that we always wanted him to sing in a higher range. The dude is totally correct. That's what happened. We had been so used to Jason singing the songs in his normal higher range, and when Alan came in and tried to do what he wanted, it didn't work. When Alan first got in the band, he put down some vocal lines on a 4 track of the "Control" songs in New York and mailed us a cassette copy. Doug and I listened to the tape and were thinking "Uh oh, this doesn't sound too good". Not only did it not sound the way we wanted, but the songs were changing. I knew that when we got to actually working out the vocal lines for the songs in Berlin, it was going to be a huge bite in the ass. Alan would want to do what he thought would work best for him, and the rest of us wanted them to be sung how we had been hearing them for years. I had all of the demos that we had recorded with Jason singing, and we went in between those melody lines, and what Alan wanted to do. What's a bit strange is that the songs that Alan sings the best are those that he wrote the melodies for, but they're the highest in vocal range.

23. You had to undergo a hand surgery. How long did it take to recover?

Too damn long. I was out for a little over two and a half years. That was a pretty rough time in my little life. I couldn't play guitar anymore, and I was flat broke because my income came from teaching guitar. It's difficult to hang on to any students when you can't even play a C Major chord. Being self employed, I didn't have much money to pay for the surgeries and doctors/therapists visits, so I was running up some serious bills. I had 4 surgeries over a period of 2 years, saw something like 15 hand surgeons/specialists and over 2 dozen therapists. The only thing I benefited from all of that was since I didn't play or write for so long, when I did finally start playing, I had tons of ideas locked up and I think that's what sparked all of the creativity in "Ink Complete". Other than that, those few years were a TOTAL waste of time.

24. When exactly did Watchtower split? There was a demo tape with the singer Scott from Confessor. Why didn't that work out?

WatchTower never really split up, we just stopped. I was killing my only day off from teaching by driving to Austin to write Tower new songs. Since we had enough material for another record, and we didn't have a vocalist, I didn't see what the point would be to keep writing songs that couldn't be finished up. Also, the stuff that we were writing just wasn't doing it for me, so I just stayed home and wrote Ink songs with Bobby. Tower never found a singer and so we had all the tunes floating around on 4 track tapes. Writing with Bobby was so convenient since we could meet up very easily and exchange tapes and sheet music. With Tower, I had to drive an hour and a half for rehearsal, and writing went a lot slower.

I have no idea who Scott from Confessor is. Maybe he sent an audition tape to Doug or something, but I never heard it.

25. How many songs were recorded for the never released third album "Mathematics" before the final split?

We had over an hours worth of material written. Something like 13 songs. We 4 tracked most of the songs, but there were no lyrics written for anything, except for "Answers In Infrared". We just had "working" titles... Doom, One Hour, Bruford/Metallica, Yes, Instrumental, Circuits, etc...

26. After the split of Watchtower, you played with Spastic Ink, Alan with Non-Fiction and Hades. What did Doug and Rick do? I only know about Retarted Elf.

I think that's about it, music-wise. Rick was in another local band "Chump Change" before he joined Retarted Elf.

27. Have you guys remained in contact over the years?

Alan and I email maybe once a year or so. After he left the band it was pretty much over. I think the guy is cool and all, but our personalities just kinda clashed. Before Rick, Doug and I got back together for this WatchTower "reunion" or whatever it is, we'd communicate a bit, usually on the net. Just about our computer setups, how the band or work was doing, etc... I stood in Rick's wedding a year or two after we stopped writing material. And I'd see them once in a while, usually whenever Retarted Elf played in San Antonio. But Jason and I had been emailing for a couple of years. When I decided that I wanted the next Ink CD to have vocals, I talked to Jason about singing on it.

28. Jason had the idea to reform Watchtower. How did you react when he contacted you?

I don't think Jason had the idea to "reform" Tower, but I know that he always wanted to play in Europe with WatchTower. Jason used to handle all of the Tower mail in the very early days and most of the fans were from Europe. WatchTower did tour Europe back in '90, but that was with Alan. Jason did do quite a few shows in Europe but he was with Dangerous Toys at that time. As a matter of fact, we played some of the same halls that Toys did. But I was pretty psyched when Jason called and told me what was up. He got the email from the Bang Your Head people and he contacted Rick and Doug first, then got a hold of me. I told him that if everybody else was into it, I wasn't going to stop it from happening. I had tried to get things happening with Tower again a few years back, and it didn't work. That was right after "Ink Complete" was released, and I was getting so much email from Tower fans wanting to know what happened to "Mathematics". I think this worked out because it was centered around gigging, not a full CD of recording. We did do that Accept tribute song a year ago, but that was just recording one song. Rick and Doug have always gotten into playing live more than studio work and this probably sparked something. I get pretty motivated for gigs too, but I also get very into just sitting at home, writing and recording.

29. Please tell us more about the first band meeting/ rehearsal after the reunion. How was the atmosphere?

It was very wild for me, because not only had I not gigged in so long, but I hadn't played in the same room with other players since Bobby, Pete and I worked out the Spastic Ink "Ink Complete" songs. That was in something like '95. But I was rather lost at that first Tower rehearsal. All I've been doing for the past several years is sitting at home in front of my computer and ADAT, recording with my Alesis D4 drum machine and string sound modules. Jason, Rick and Doug have all continued gigging around, so for them it was just getting back into Tower mode. Because timing-wise, playing live with Tower is another story. Yeah, I've been playing quintuplets at 140 BPMs in11/16 time at home, but with Rick and Doug, you're talking about a different animal. And it really was great hearing Jason again with the band.

30. I think at least Doug, Rick and you cannot live from the record sales. What day jobs do you, Doug and Rick have? Do you still give guitar lessons?

I've been supporting myself by teaching guitar for way too long. Something like 15 years. I got tired of baby sitting dumbshit students about 14 years ago. A "real job" would be nice right about now. Well actually, not right about now because I'm too swamped writing everything and recording all the guitar parts for "Ink Compatible", and now co-writing for Tower and in a few months, recording the next WatchTower CD. I think after all that musically I'm just going to do guest spots on other artist's CDs for a while. Something like what I did with Gordian Knot. I've been wanting to do a few songs with Ron Thal for quite a while now, and I don't have time for it. We're both a little on the nutty side and think we could put together some killer tunes. We also have some weird things in common. Our first names of course, our brothers play drums, our wife's name is Jennifer, and we both have "hand" guitars. Kinda spooky actually. Rick and Doug have been working at printing companies for several years now. They are both doing quite well.

31. Who is the driving force in Watchtower nowadays?

Nobody is really running the show. We're all contributing in different ways. I tend to get really into the musical end of things, coming up with musical concepts and themes to write tunes around. I guess I'm also the "tape master" of the band, recording all of the new tunes that we're writing at rehearsal, and trying to put everything together. Doug is coming up with the lyrical concepts, and writing all the lyrics. Doug and Rick are also very into the business end of things. Jason does a lot of emailing and making contacts. Since I released "Ink Complete" in '97, I've also been on the net doing whatever I can to get both bands out there. Jason also is responsible for the official Tower web site. He got a really cool friend of his, Barry Van Beek, to start up the site. Right now, it's at www.baremaster.com/watchtower, but we're working on getting an official WatchTower domain name. The damn Jehovah's witness people almost have a monopoly on the word "WatchTower".

32. In 1998, Jason wanted to complete the "Mathematics" album. But in our interview he said he wasn't happy with the material. What is the truth behind these speculations?

Yeah, he's right on the money. I wasn't too happy with it either and I was part of the problem. I just think that we got lost with our musical direction. We were writing a lot of tunes when my hand was screwed up, so the parts weren't that difficult to play. I only had two operable fingers on my left hand most of the time that we were writing. When I fixed my hand, I was starting to play more difficult parts but none of what I was writing was fitting in with the "new" Tower direction, so that's why Bobby and I started Spastic Ink. But Tower had maybe 2 or 3 songs that picked up where Control left off, some songs that need reworking, and a few songs that sucked so hard that I didn't even want my name on them. Those were immediately dropped when we decided to do another record after all of this "reunion" business. I just couldn't release songs like that after having "Ink Complete" released a few years earlier. Talk about regression. When we "got back together" for these Tower shows, Doug and I talked about how lost we were with those songs and that we need to get a more "progressive" direction. Doug came up with a really cool lyrical concept to work with and now I'm pretty happy with what we're putting together. We don't want to put out another "Energetic", "Control", be a Dream Theater clone, or do anything that's common in current "progressive" music. It would be pointless in doing something that's already been done.

33. You have decided to record a third Watchtower album. Can you please give us the latest news?

The title "Mathematics" has been up in the air ever since we released "Control And Resistance", but now we're thinking that we might not be headed in that direction. Back then Alan wrote some lyrics that dealt with numbers ("Dearly Digit") and ("Education Inaction") that we were putting music to, but that's all been dropped. Jason wanted to get back to being really heavy metal like in the old Tower days, so we're staying heavy while being progressive. During one of our first writing sessions, Jason asked me if I could write some metal straightforward riffs that kept riding on one note. I thought to myself "Well, I just wrote practically every note for two Ink records, and co-wrote half of "Control", so I think I can play straight sixteenths on my low E string." I mean, it was a ridiculous question, but I totally understood where he was coming from. He just wants Tower very heavy and aggressive. He doesn't want to sing over any wus shit. So that's the direction that we're heading in.

34. Will there be only new songs on it or also unreleased "Mathematics" tunes? Or will you include some old arrangements in the new tracks?

A few people have suggested maybe doing a current version of "Meltdown", "Tyrants In Distress", or have Jason sing some of the Control song the way they were supposed to go. As a matter of fact, when we started writing again for this "Mathematics" CD, we though about including the demo versions of "Control", "Instruments", "Eldritch" and "Fall". That was done in 1987 with Jason on vocals, and me on guitar. After thinking on it for a while, we decided against it, because it would limit the time that we would have for new material on the CD. And really, I would personally like to move forward, and not have to rely on old material.

35. Did you already get some offers from record labels?

We're not there yet. Right now, we're just trying to focus on writing the material. We haven't received any serious offers from any labels, but we have been approached by several labels with obvious interest. We don't know if we should try to release it ourselves, and not have to get a middleman involved. But that would be tons of work trying to get the CD distributed ourselves. I have no idea how many copies we'd sell but we'd probably be biting off more than we could chew. I think I'm going to release "Ink Compatible" myself, and see what happens. But "Ink Complete" only sold a few thousand copies. "Control And Resistance" sold over 40,000.

36. You are now completing the second album of your band Spastic Ink, "Ink Compatible". How is the recording process going on?

It's going great, but taking too damn long. I've been working on this CD for over 2 years now, and it's a bitch trying to pull everything together. Bobby and I set up my recording gear back in his rehearsal place and ran everything into my Mackie mixer and ADAT. I then took the tracks home and transferred them into my computer. I'm right in the middle of recording all of my guitar parts over here at my home ADAT studio. I had to cancel a few WatchTower rehearsals to get going on it. Sunday is my only day off, and I'm trying to get moving on these recordings. Steve (DiGiorgio) got an ADAT tape sent to him a few weeks ago. Sean's got a computer hard drive studio setup at this place and he's already recording. The songs on "Ink Compatible" are much heavier than those on "Ink Complete", and have countless measures of 15/16, 7/8, 11/16, etc.... I've been comparing guitar sounds and listening to what would work best for the songs, and I matched up Dimebag's sound on the "Southern Trendkill" album. Really heavy and crunchy. I know that a few fans are expecting the music to be somewhat watered down, because there will be vocals on most of the tracks, but that's not going to happen. And I'm pretty happy with the drum sounds that we're getting too. When Bobby and I recorded "Ink Complete", we thought we were going to have to record everything in a real studio, so we didn't totally knock ourselves out trying to get studio quality out of a 4 track. We never did rerecord the "Ink Complete" songs because time and money got in the way, so I just did the best that I could with what I had. I've got some studio quality gear now, and I'm doing everything I can to make it sound top notch. When we recorded the drums a few months ago, Bobby and I went back and forth between live acoustic sounds and samples, and got the best possible sounds. On "Ink Complete" we had something like 3 mikes all running into one channel on a 4 track! I'm doing a lot of transferring files from ADAT to computer and back and forth, so I'm getting some really clean recordings.

37. While the first Spastic Ink album was recorded by a trio (you, your brother Bobby and Pete Perez from Riot), this time the lineup is extended. Please tell us more about the participating artists.

There are going to be a lot of serious players on the CD. I just got the audio files this morning from Jens Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen) , who did two screaming key solos. Jimmy Pitts (Schlomance) did a killer key solo for me a few months ago too. Most of the bass parts will be played by Steve DiGiorgio and Sean Malone, but Pete Perez (Riot), Doug (WatchTower) and Ray Reindeau (Halford) will also contribute. Bobby is playing on 6 tunes. He managed to squeeze the recordings in just before he recorded with Halford. Steve is finding time to help out in between all of his work with Testament, Death, Control Denied, and a wife and two kids. Sean is currently teaching and studying at Oregon University, and he's finding time for Ink somehow. Doug Keyser and Ray Reindeau will have quick guest spots on the CD. And the wacky David Bagsby will contribute. Jason (WatchTower) will be singing on every song except the 3 instrumentals. And some Ron guy will be doing the guitar parts.

38. Sean Malone (Cynic, Aghora) contributes some bass parts. Are there any other projects planned with him after the Gordian Knot album?

I hope so. I got to play on his first Gordian Knot CD, and I think I'm up for the next one too. Sean's working with the Cynic guys again, so I'll probably just do a few solos here or there. The main guitarist for the next Knot CD is Jason Goebel, I think. Sean Reinert will play most of the drums, but Sean fired up Bill Bruford to play on 3 songs.

39. The first album was written by you and Bobby. And the second one?

The lineup on "Ink Complete" (me, Bobby and Pete) was pretty much a band. Just about all of the writing on "Ink Complete" was done on our own time. Then we met up maybe once or twice a week and put everything together live. On "Ink Compatible", I wrote everything, came up with all the musical concepts, lyrics, and videos. I've got all these work recordings with me playing guitar and sound modules playing bass and drums, and sheet music ready to hand out to whoever is playing on certain songs. Bobby played on 6 songs that were already written, but he did his own thing with songs. Three of the songs have drum "solos", and of course he's all over the place throughout the songs. I'm also writing all of the lyrics, and the 5 minute long videos on the CD that will appear as avi files.

40. Jason will also sing on the album. Where are the differences to the WatchTower material? Same singer, same guitarist.

A lot of difference. WatchTower and Spastic Ink are both "progressive" bands, but there is a major difference when you listen to what type of musical parts are being played and what is happening concept wise. Ink tunes are carefully constructed, musically theoretically set in stone parts that have to be played perfectly for the tune to work. WatchTower has a lot more freedom to goof off with musical parts. Its kinda cool going from being so musically disciplined in Ink to seeing what the hell happens with Tower. Lyric wise, Doug is getting very philosophical with the new Tower lyrics, while I'm doing a lot of goofy play with words. We're talking about being very intellectual, scientific and thinking about personal thoughts, ideals and accomplishments, and life's progress with Tower and then I'm coming up with stupid titles like "Aquanet" for Ink. Does anybody remember the hairspray? I guess if Ink can title a song after baking soda on "Ink Complete" (Harm and Half-Time Baking Shuffle"), then we can name a song after hairspray on "Ink Compatible". The "Aqua" is referring to all of the cheesy "blues" riffs/licks in the song that had some Ink brain surgery done to them, and the "net" is self explanatory. With Ink I take a lot of chances, have the freedom to do whatever I want musically and lyrically. If I want to write a 4 1/2 minute song with only two notes, do a progressive metal version of Bambi, or write a score for a story about a squirrel, I can do it. I don't have to clear it with anyone. If it flops, it's my fault, if it totally rocks, then it's mine. None of it even has to make perfect sense, just have character. There's some great music on the next Ink CD, very cool concepts, humor, creativity and imagination. Should be a killer CD. Too bad it's taking forever. I think on "Ink Compatible" I'm going to do all of my solos similar to what I did on "Control". Have alternating lead lines on 3 tracks, so yeah there will be some similarities. I don't know what Jason has in mind vocally for the upcoming Tower songs, but for Ink, I want him to do a little of everything. The high Geddy Lee stuff, some lower Gene Simmons growly stuff, and whatever else works. But no cookie monster vocals please.

41. You made a guitar transcription book of the first Spastic Ink album. Are there some fans who want to try to play this extremely complicated stuff?

I guess so. I've gotten quite a few orders for that transcription booklet. I don't know if the guitarists out there are playing the eight finger tapping arpeggios at the end of "Mosquito", or the septuplets at 185 BPMs on the "Data Race" solo, but they're very interested in what's going on. For "Ink Compatible", I'm going to have a transcription booklet for all the guitar parts with liner notes explaining concepts, theoretical explanations of musical notes, hidden messages in tunes, funny stories behind songs, what influenced me to write something, etc... I'll have it available a few months after the release of the CD. I think I'm going to call it the "Technical Notes".

42. The first album has been re-released with a bonus track and new graphics. Please give us more info.

The first issue of "Ink Complete" was released in May of 1997 by Dream Circle Records. They only pressed maybe 2,500 or 3,000 copies and they were gone in no time. We made the mistake of waiting for so long to get more copies made. I was running off CD-Rs for several months but a lot of people wanted the real thing, so we decided to go ahead with it. Dream Circle fell apart and so there was no way they could make more copies, so we just spent a few thousand bucks and got another 1,000 copies made. Dream Circle still has the glass master, and all the illustrations and graphics, so I basically had to do everything all over. The reissue copies have all new graphics and a bonus track, a 24 minute collection of all the work recordings that Bobby and I did. Some interesting stuff. Some live recordings, tunes recorded with click tracks at slower speeds, solos played super slow, a few tunes that didn't make it on Ink Complete, etc... I put as much audio on the CD as I could. I think there's 4 seconds to spare. I wish there would have been more room because I had a hard time choosing what to include on the bonus track. There are over a dozen cassette tapes full of Ink work tunes. And since we released Ink Complete, I've been working with a lot of graphic programs, so I spent a few dozen hours and redid everything in full color. The liner notes on the first issue of Ink Complete were printed on a solid light purple background. I splattered ink on sheets, scanned them in, and got a cool background effect. I also remastered the audio. The first copies were burned a bit too high. We are still looking for more distributors who want to carry the CD. I've still got copies here which can be ordered directly from the www.ronjarzombek.com website. And when these are gone, we will immediately get more copies.

43. Now some general questions: Apparently, some old Sieges Even material resembled Watchtower quite a bit. How did you feel about this?

At that time that we heard about it, we were kinda pissed off, but now I think it's kinda funny if a band wants to blatantly rip off another band. If a band has an album out called "Control And Resistance" and then another band comes out with an album a year later called "Repression And Resistance" (or whatever it was), then you know something's up. They also had a song out called Asylum, I think, not sure. What's funny though is we wrote a song that appeared on "Control" called "Lifecycles", and they had an album called "Lifecycle" that was released around the same time. I don't know if they had been reading Tower interviews where we talked about some titles or what, but if they come out with an album called "Mathematics", you'll definitely know something is up. I hear a lot of "progressive" bands out there trying to be the next Dream Theater, and I wish they would listen to something else so they would sound different. You listen to the musicianship in the band, and just wonder why can't these guys write something that's their own.

44. Many fans (including myself) find that your music truly adds significant value to (progressive) metal. Would you agree?

I suppose, but I think any type of music can add something to a different type of music. I write differently now after I've listened to dozens of filmscores and cartoons. I think the problem arises when a band or people keep listening to the same type of music over and over for years. Really puts a limit on things and shuts down the imagination.

The music that's on "Ink Compatible" will be a lot closer to "progressive metal" than the music on "Ink Complete". I think a few of the songs on the first CD could be labeled as "metal", but overall, it has too many other types of music going on. I don't mind when someone describes the CD as experimental metal, or fusion or whatever. Just so it's not in the same category with Eminem and Puff Daddy.

45. Have you spoken with your brother Bobby lately? How does he feel playing with Rob Halford?

Bobby's having a great time recording and touring with the Halford band. I'm so glad that he finally left Riot and moved on to something else. Not that they're a bad band or anything, but he's played on something like 6 Riot records, and it sounded to me like they had been stagnating for so long. Riot wasn't doing anything for his playing or his career. Bobby was always "on call" with Riot, meaning that whenever a little tour or recording came up, he had to stop what he was doing at home, and fly to New York for a week or two. With Halford, he's doing what he wants to do, and there's no bullshit. It took a while for them to get the record out, but since then, it's been non-stop. He calls me up maybe once a week and we talk about family stuff, the Ink recordings, his adventures on the road.

46. Is he out of Riot?

Yep, I think Riot split up. Even that last record that Bobby played on, he wasn't an "official" member. They had a small European tour with another drummer and he didn't work out or something, so they called Bobby up just to do the record. They had a US tour planned for the record with another drummer, but Mark pulled out at the last minute because of some financial decision.

47. Does he play the drums on the final tunes for the second Spastic Ink album?

I was hoping that Bobby would play on the whole CD, but we didn't have time. I wasn't totally finished writing the songs at that time, and he wouldn't have been able to record the songs anyway because he had to take off to tour with Halford. There will be 9 songs on "Ink Compatible" and he's playing on #1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8. What can I say, he totally kicked ass. Nothing better than having programmed drum parts come to life. Bobby took what I had written and did some amazing things to the songs. Added some cool solos, fills, got the grooves rockin', just everything that I could ever ask for. And just like on "Ink Complete", we had sheet music all over the place, but this time instead of cassette tapes, I brought in CD-Rs. I still have 3 songs left and I still don't know for sure who will be playing drums on them. Right now I'm working with David Penna, a killer fusion drummer out of New York. He sent me a CD of his playing and he's got some unbelievable chops, great feel, and impeccable timing. And I'm really hoping that it works out. But honestly, if Bobby wouldn't have recorded those songs months ago, I probably would have ditched "Ink Compatible", and for that matter, Spastic Ink all together. I got so tired of having these killer tunes ready to be recorded and none of us could put anything on tape until drums were recorded. I've had Steve (DiGiorgio) and Sean (Malone) waiting for things to happen for way too long. Almost two years. I received several "audition" tapes/ CD-Rs from various drummers but nobody could really do the songs justice. I didn't want to just get the songs recorded and have them butchered up, so I just keep writing and writing, not knowing who would play the songs. Let's just say that big brother came to the rescue. It seemed like any drummer who could play the songs, didn't have time to learn such material or wanted way too much money. Ink tunes aren't just 8 measures of 7 here, and 4 measures of 5 there. It's set parts that have to be played right. It would take a drummer some serious hours to learn everything correctly and record. And with a drummer, recording is a whole different story. Getting guitars, bass, and vocals, just requires one mike and/or a direct line coming in. For Ink songs, we'd be talking about some serious recording studio time and money. And this music isn't going to be recorded in one take.

48. You are also working in the multimedia field and want to do some videos. Any detailed plans?

I was really looking into getting involved in writing music for multimedia, but found that the industry is so swamped with musicians wanting to get into that type of work. I found that the ratio of composers to companies hiring is roughly 20:1. And being a guitarist rather than a keyboardist decreases the odds drastically of me being able to support myself doing that kind of work. My first attempt at writing a "score" for an animation was "Ants On My Windshield". The next one was "Oh No, Mr. Kitty!". Both appear on "Phhhp!". On "Ink Complete" we did "A Morning With Squeakie", which I wish that someday I could somehow get a cartoon done for it. I've got everything in that song scripted out, down to every twirl of a nut, every turn around a bush, yawn, blink, chomp, hop, etc... On "Ink Compatible" I decided that instead of imagining what the video for songs would look like, I actually bought a simple animation program called "Micrografx Simply 3D" and wrote five 45-90 second videos, then scored them with "Ink" music. They will appear on "Ink Compatible" as avi files after the normal audio. And so whoever picks up the CD will be able to put it in their CD-ROM player, and "see" an Ink tune. But, if anything does come my way as far as writing music for any video games, ads, etc... I'll gladly do it, but I'm not persuing it much anymore.

49. You have a quite impressive guitar collection. Please tell us more about it, for example the one with the hand, the dog or the numbers (for the "Mathematics" album).

Yeah, I've got some pretty wild guitars, but very few of them have actually seen a gig. My main guitar that used to be painted red, white and black swirl is now painted like the "Ink Complete" CD cover, with the black ink blots splattered over a purple/white background. I built just about all of my guitars when my hand was wasted. The bodies are made from scratch out of 1" x 4" strips of poplar and maple which are glued together. I got most of the necks off of old guitars that were just sitting around in music stores. I sand off the fingerboards, glue on a 1/4" strip of hard maple, then cut the fret slots, and glue in some Super Jumbo Jim Dunlop frets. I guess I figured that since I couldn't play guitar during that time, I'd build 'em instead. The "Zeek" guitar is history. That's a mirror image of the dog on the "Control And Resistance" album cover. The 29 fret neck that was on that guitar is now on my purple and yellow Strat. That neck was taken off of a short scale bass. My "hand" guitar is a replica of the logo of the hang surgeons who fixed my hand. That is still a functional guitar, but I rarely play it. I should fire that one up for the next Tower gig. The guitar with the numbers painted all over it was barely ever played. I made that one after we decided that the next album was going to be called "Mathematics". That guitar was a disaster.

50. I recently interviewed Aghora. Do you like their music?

I was emailing Santiago Dobles several months ago. Very cool guy. I sent him an Ink CD and he turned me on to "Aghora". Sean Reinert's been there for a while, and they just added Sean Malone. Not a bad decision! All of the players in the band are killer. I've heard the full CD, some rather progressive stuff. Kinda strange how their sound works so well with a chick vocalist. Both Seans have always worked great together.

51. What is "Phhhp!" ?

Phhhp! is that sound that you make when closing your mouth real tight, puffing your cheeks, then blowing out. It's a real high pitched squeak. Back when I was writing and recording those old solo songs, during the early Tower days, Jason and I used to do the Phhhp! noise, and he came up with the spelling. It was just a funny, stupid thing that we used to do. Who could make the goofiest face while hitting the highest note. I was looking for a title for the collection of solo songs that I was goofing off with, and that seemed to fit very well. All of the songs on "Phhhp!" were written during the time that I was in WatchTower (except "Ants"), but weren't used in Tower songs because they either had way too many guitar parts to be played as a "band", didn't fit the music style, or were just too experimental. So I did a lot of songs on my own with a 4 track and Yamaha drum machine. The songs that appear on the "Phhhp!" CD-R, are actually two separate collections that I just mixed together. I did "Kill The White Noise", "Nighty Nite", "It Looks Like A Chicken", "Test Tones", and "That's Odd" first, then about a year or two later, I finished up the others.

52. Please tell us what you feel is your most difficult work to date.

Time/rhythm wise, the Ink stuff is a bit demanding, but really if you keep playing a tune repeatedly, you get it buried in your head and then you don't have to think about it anymore, it just comes out. With Ink tunes, you have to be right on the dot, because if not, the tune won't work. It'll just sound like a big mess. There's too much syncopation happening and that doesn't allow for sloppiness. Solo wise, doing all of the WatchTower "Control" solos on 3 tracks was a bit demanding, having all of the harmonies starting/stopping at the exact right times. I could always play it safe and write licks and phrases that I'm very capable of playing, but I'd rather push myself because the more you push yourself, the better you get as a player and as a writer. But that's not saying that everything has to be demanding or difficult to be "good". But what's fun for me is to take something that's very "technical", and make it flow and sound very natural. Just like any filmscore. If it's really good, you don't even know its there, because it fits so well.

53. What influences the chaos in you playing?

I don't have a huge CD collection. When I was a kid I used to figure out all of my guitar hero's solos and try to play them note for note. Usually anything by Alex Lifeson (Rush), Michael Schenker (UFO), Ace Frehley (Kiss), Uli Roth (Scorpions), Al Di Meola, and Tipton/ Downing (Judas Priest). Now I might put on a CD just to hear what a band is all about, but I try not to let it influence me much. The reason for that is because I don't want to sound like any current band. For a while, all I listened to was filmscores by Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Alan Silvestri, and Richard Band. And I figured out a lot of the music in Bugs Bunny cartoons. Carl Stalling is simply amazing. Most of what I write nowadays just comes from musical note patterns, different number configurations, and just letting my imagination flow. For instance, the intro for "Aquanet" feature the band (guitars, bass and drums) playing a modem dialing into the internet. I actually sat down and transcribing the timing and pitches of the modem. A little difficult. That has to sound wild because something like that won't be in the key of C Major, and have eighth notes in 4/4 time. A few of the guitarists that I do listen to these days are Dimebag (Pantera), Steve Vai, John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Alan Holdsworth, Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) and Marty Friedman.

54. Didn't you ever want to play in a "normal" band that's able to have some commercial success? It doesn't have to be a pop band, but for example a power metal band. Why do you always want to go against the tide?

No, I really don't care to play in any "normal" band because if I would happen to write trying to please other people, I really wouldn't know if the music was "good". I'm not the other person and what is "good" to them is not going to be "good" to me. It's all a matter of taste and opinion. If I was just trying to be in a band to achieve some type of commercial success, it would just be a job and it wouldn't be motivating because it's not what I really want to do. Plus, that's what a lot of people try to do so you're actually competing against more people. Do what somebody else thinks you should do, and then a year or two later, those people have changed their minds about what is "good", or the whole market changes. And so the people that you were trying to satisfy are no longer there, and you're not satisfying yourself, so what's the point. I just do what I want, because that's what I do best.

55. Watchtower has released a tape and an album in 15 years, but have a cult status in the scene. What do you think is the secret behind your high reputation? Only your extreme technical abilities? Or is there a certain "magic"?

Well, Control was released in 1990 or 1991, so it's been about ten years since we've had anything released, but that's still a long damn time. But really, how can a "cult" band have such a status in the music world, to where nothing at all has happened in 10 years, and we still have people talking about the band. There must be something to it. I don't know what it is, but I do know that a lot of the bands coming out now list WatchTower as a heavy influence, and that's really cool to hear and rather flattering. When "Control" was released, I think it stood out because it had distinct character to it. Same thing with Cynic's "Focus", although neither band contributed much to the music world in terms of number of releases.

56. In an interview, you described yourself as a computer nerd. When did you start to work at the computer and how many hours do you spend in front of the screen these days?

I became a computer nerd about 6 years ago. I've always been a very technical, mathematical person. Actually, I don't know how I ever existed without a computer. I spend probably 6 to 8 hours on my computer a day, writing, editing sound files, working with grahics programs, and answering email. I don't play any games at all, and don't do much surfing. I just use the computer to get things done, not goof off and waste time.

57. Do you also use the computer for your music (songwriting etc.)?

Oh yeah. Every note of "Ink Compatible" was written with a keyboard and mouse. I have work recording of almost all of the "Ink Compatible" song all played by midi instruments. Before Bobby came around and recorded those songs, I was very close to just releasing "Ink Compatible" with all drum programming. I've got piano and synths playing the guitar parts, an Alesis Nanobass handling the bass parts, and an Alesis D4 for drums. When I gave Bobby the songs to learn, I didn't have sketches or vague ideas written down for the drums. I had note for note drum parts written with fills, cymbal chokes, 4 toms going from left to right, etc... What was a real bite in the ass was setting the hi-hat hits at 4 different velocity settings to achieve more of a "human" feel. When I give the songs to Steve and Sean to learn the bass parts, everything is written out on sheet music all nice and pretty by a computer. I also write music with a computer because if I write a difficult line and I want to hear what it would sound like at normal speed, I don't have to learn it and practice it repeatedly until I get it right, then find out that the lick sucks after all that. I just write it in the computer, press the spacebar, and that's it. What was a little scary for me though was I was spending so much time writing on computer that I wasn't playing much guitar. I had quite a bit of the "Ink Compatible" tunes written and I tried to play some of the stuff and it was impossible. I couldn't even play a chromatic scale picking every note with sixteenth notes at 100 BPMs, and that's VERY slow. And so I had to redo my picking hand so I could play the parts that I had written. I pick at a totally different angle now compared to when I recorded say "Control And Resistance" and even "Ink Complete". When I pick now, it's got a lot more attack, rather than just picking the notes. It worked out for the best though because I used to struggle with some of faster picking phrases in Tower and Ink songs, now it's just a matter of flowing with it. Now I can hit 190 BPMs. 200 on a good day.

58. Do you think the internet has more negative than positive effects on our lives?

I think the internet is a great thing, but of course, it can be severely abused. Usually that's by people who don't have a damn thing to do, or just blatant assholes. I've made so many contacts through the internet. I've received emails from fans in some countries that I didn't even know existed. The internet is a great way for any band to promote themselves, get their music heard, but then there you go right there, somebody abusing the internet (Napster). I thought everything was cool how bands could have their own personal website, put up 30 second sound clips of their songs, and give listeners a chance to hear what they sound like before anybody spent any money. But then these Napster people get the idea to take it upon themselves to get everybody's music out there, and it's for their own personal gain. And as a result of their gain, the struggling artist loses out on a sale. It's not right for somebody to take an artist's work and hand it to someone else for free. I've never been on Napster and downloaded anything, but I have lots of students that are doing it. As a matter of fact, one guy came in a few months ago, and told me "Hey, I got your whole Spastic Ink "Ink Complete" CD off of Napster yesterday. There's money straight out of my pocket. I think what Napster should do is have a limit on how many songs can be available for each band. If a listener really likes the 2 or 3 songs, that they're hearing, then they should go out and buy the damn thing. Support whoever you're listening to. If Napster can't figure out how to do that, then they need to shut the damn thing down. And if a band chooses to have their whole CD on the internet, they probably have a website themselves and don't need a Napster. I spend a lot of time on the internet corresponding with friends and fans, making business contacts, and must admit that I'd be pretty lost with out the net.

59. You think Watchtower will have a future as a band? Or will they only be a side project, considering all the other bands you and especially Jason are involved?

Good question. I don't even know at this point where we're going with this. All I know is that we've done several shows, have had great response, and are going to probably get out another CD in 2001. Honestly, if the record does great, I don't know what will happen. When we first got together for this "reunion", none of us knew what we were in for. We're having a bit of hard time trying to fit Tower into our current schedules, but I think it's important enough for all of us to make it happen again.

60. Are there more Watchtower live gigs planned? What are your plans for the future?

We were asked to play at next years Wacken festival in Holland, and it looks like we're going to do it. It seems as if we're being rather selective about doing any gigs, because of our schedules. The Germany festival was of course a great opportunity, and we needed the warm up shows, and then we did the two shows with Dream Theater here in Texas. We've also been asked to play at festivals in Chicago and California, so that's also a possibility. Our main focus though is writing material for the next CD. If a cool gig opportunity comes up we might take it, as we did with Dream Theater. But we're not going to just book gigs around town just for the hell of it. I'd like to move forward, get more material out there, and then we'll see what happens...

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